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HS2: Council CEO warns ‘this must not happen again’ following rail review

HS2: Council CEO warns: ‘this must not happen again’ following rail review

The eastern leg of HS2 would have been a brand new line linking Birmingham with Leeds, via Sheffield

Leeds’s most senior civil servant has warned the city must “never be in this position again”, following the cancelling of two new high speed rail lines into the city.

It follows the announcement of the Government’s Integrated Rail Plan last month, which saw both the north-south Leeds leg of HS2 and the new east-west Northern Powerhouse Rail line plans scrapped by Whitehall.

At a meeting this week, senior figures in Leeds City Council said more clarity was needed on funding for the Government’s recent commitments to fund a study looking at how else high speed trains can get into Leeds.

Councillors also warned that more capacity was urgently needed at Leeds Station before any further rail lines can be added.

Leeds City Council Chief Executive Tom Riordan told the meeting: “We are all having to choose our words carefully on this. We have planned the city for 10 years on the basis of a national scheme coming forward, and it is now looking like it has changed.

“We need to ensure we don’t get into this position again. We can have a much stronger, more joined up partnership with government and our regional partners to improve transport in the city and the wider region.

“If 50 per cent of trains are late in Leeds Station, it has a knock on effect on the country, which is why it is really important.”

The meeting heard claims that the Department for Transport (DfT) was overseeing the planned £100m study into how high speed trains could get to Leeds Station, rather than the local authorities themselves.

Mr Riordan responded: “It is DfT who are in charge of that £100m. We had a meeting with them and National Rail. There are some good things in this – hopefully we can move forward with mass transit services this decade.

“In other times, we would be celebrating this, but as it’s in with the lack of clarity, that is the position we are in.”

Leeds City Council’s Conservatives group deputy leader Coun Alan Lamb said: “We are where we are. They key thing is making sure we quickly address Leeds Station capacity issues, because it is nearly impossible to have other plans until we increase platform capacity.”

Liberal Democrat group leader Coun Stewart Golton said: “I was hoping for more from Coun Lamb. I would appreciate the Conservative group’s opinion on the Government’s plan being brought forward which was expressed by the Government as even better than originally planned.”

On the £100m for the high speed rail study, he added: “The money is being given to us, but being spent by somebody else, which doesn’t seem to be quite right.”

“The amount of actions in this paper where we need to clarify so many things is an indictment on the quality of the rail review.

“It has delivered ever greater confusion as to what it is and what the Government wants to achieve.”

Words: Richard Beecham, Local Democracy Reporter


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